Letting The Customer “Opt-Out” Is Not A Nurturing Strategy


Share on LinkedIn

I had an interesting, unexpected reaction to my “Stop Nurturing Me” post.

An individual commented, “prospects have the option to opt-out of being nurtured, as do customers…..”

The comment, while well intended, frankly struck me as very misguided.

Forcing the customer to opt-out is actually an indication of a massive failure on our part.

It means we haven’t taken the time to really understand the customer—their journey to learn and educate themselves, their “squishy buying cycle,” and their quest for more learning once they’ve bought.

If we are building high quality, impactful content; if we are trying to build customer engagement and trust; if we are building a long term relationship where the customer seeks actively to be involved and learn; the Opt out option is an indicator that we’ve failed.

Leveraging opt-out as a part of the nurturing strategy is really a statement about our arrogance and lack of caring.  It’s tantamount to telling the customer, “We don’t care enough about you to do our homework and learn what interests you when.  We’ll just keep pummeling you with stuff, letting you decide and take action.”

Opt-out as part of a nurturing strategy, is devastating in other ways.  It means we’ve lost that individual!  They no longer want to hear from us, they no longer want to be engaged.  Recovering from that loss may be impossible, in the least, it will take time and huge amounts of resource to regain permission, rebuild the engagement, rebuild the trust.

Regardless, how carefully we build our content and nurturing strategies, there are those who will Opt-out.  Those represent learning moments for us.  They represent moments to rethink and refine our strategies, to improve our impact and engagement.  We may choose not to change or act, but learning from those who Opt-out gives us choice and the opportunity to improve and grow with our prospects and customers.

Perhaps I’m way off base here, I wish someone would correct me if I’m wrong, but there is no content or nurturing strategy that I can think of in which Opt-out is a reasonable option for what we are trying to achieve.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. I completely agree with you! My dad always told me “if you treat your customers like valued neighbors, they will take care of you.” My neighbor intervenes if an stranger walks on my property when I am away. My neighbor picks up a limb that fell on my driveway just because he spotted it and knew it needed to be removed. But If my neighbor borrows my lawnmower because his won’t start, he does not say to me, “And, if you want your mower back, you will need to remind me to bring it back to you.” At some level Opt Out is a trick, a ploy, and a way to manipulate without concern for a sense of fair play nor the practice of neighborly manners.

  2. Dave, excellent thoughts. I would like us to put together reasons for opting out…neglecting a customer, not reacting to his request on price or spec changes, or making huge mistakes.
    Over 30 years ago I managed to get a contract from Hunt Wesson over their long term suppler. Material was being shipped from Europe and arrived well in time ins spite of stringent timelines. A couple of days later my Sales Director informed me that the wrong material was shipped (Hunt had ordered white and the material they received was orange), and Hunt’s material had gone to Lebanon.

    Needless to say, Hunt opted out!!

  3. Thanks Chip and Gautam. Chip, your comments on Opt Out as a trick really resonate with me.

    Crassly, we only provide an Opt Out option, because we have to do so legally. Too many marketers and sales just want to inflict “stuff” on customers at ever increasing volumes.

    There’s this death spiral of creating awareness in an ever increasing flood of information. Too many opt to volume/quantity over quality, so they have strategies that inundate us with stuff.

    Customers/people are smart, they quickly decode this, and even though they may not actually opt out, they have, in fact opted out. For example, I have rules built into my email to handle “communications” from hundreds of people. I have opted out, and they are oblivious to this.

    That’s one reason why it’s important to understand opt outs, because for every one that actually does, there are dozens to hundreds who have opted out but never tell us.

    Gautam, you point is well taken, customers and prospects opt out at any time, pre, post sale.

    Thanks for great comments.

  4. From my perspective, your statement, “Regardless how carefully we build our content and nurturing strategies, there are those who will Opt-out. Those represent learning moments for us. They represent moments to rethink and refine our strategies, to improve our impact and engagement.” is the one which has the most truth and application.

    Opt-in and opt-out has some analogies to what is practiced in direct response situations. In direct response programs, there are always two options:

    – Negative option. This offer prearranges for an ongoing shipment if the customer does not cancel the shipment by sending a rejection form prior to the deadline. In other words, this is passive acceptance.

    – Positive option. Every shipment is based on a direct action by the customer ,requesting continuance.

    Neither of these tools involves handing customers an opt-out lever. Customers can, and should, control their involvement throughout the life cycle, from prospect stage through recovery stage (post-defection): http://customerthink.com/perceived-value-and-customer-life-stages-a-tale-of-two-bakeries/They are typically aware that they can sever what is essentially a voluntary, elective vendor relationship at any time. It isn’t necessary, or particularly wise, for a vendor to put a scissors, scalpel, or knife in their customer’s hands.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts & challenge, Dave, I also agree with your sentiment. From a marketing perspective, embracing the challenge of opt-in permission based marketing is what drives the business to need real Customer Insight & to design conversations rather than just cannon-fodder campaigns.

    It isn’t easy and can be dispiriting to direct marketers used to higher volumes, but they need to remind themselves quite how passive or non-existent their “relationship” was with past legions of recipients. Moving to a mindset where you engage with freely posing questions & answering them to engender a conversation, establish expertise & constantly refining content to suit your audience is actually more interesting and creatively motivating.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here